STAKE CLAIM OR TAKE FLIGHT: THE BIRTH OF SOUTHERN CONVENTIONS AFTER THE CIVIL WAR
Nicodemus, Kansas, is an important and unique historic site; “it is the only remaining western town established by African Americans during the Reconstruction period following the Civil War and represents a largely untold story of the western expansion and settlement of the Great Plains.”1 The site is the result of a collaboration of W. H. Smith, a Black reverend, and W. R. Hill, a white developer.2 Both men ran the Nicodemus Town Company and promoted the site to Black southerners.
On June 18, 1877, Nicodemus attracted its first resident, Reverend Simon P. Roundtree, who invited more people into the colony.3 Less than two weeks later, a group of around thirty individuals arrived. This group included Z. T. Fletcher and his wife, Jenny Smith Fletcher, the first woman in the settlement.4 Jenny Smith Fletcher later on became Nicodemus’s first schoolmistress, teaching children in a dugout home. Her husband established the first general store in the settlement.
Many of Nicodemus’s residents came from Kentucky. W. R. Hill actively encouraged Blacks from Georgetown, Lexington, and other Kentucky counties, to move to Nicodemus. In 1879, fifty freedmen from Mississippi moved to the town, becoming its last large group to settle there.5 The Federal Census of 1880 indicates that there were 260 Blacks living in Nicodemus.6
The school that Jenny Smith Fletcher started was rebuilt into a wooden building in the late 1880s and soon employed two teachers. Two newspapers were established in Nicodemus: The Western Cyclone and The Nicodemus Enterprise. The former lasted a year, and the latter folded after less than a year in publication.6
Five historic Nicodemus buildings stand today: the Fletchers’ home, an AME church, the Township Hall, the Old First Baptist Church, and a schoolhouse. The last two were former dugouts but were improved over the years.
 “Nicodemus, Kansas,” from http://www.nicodemuskansas.org/index.html
 “Nicodemus, Kansas,” from http://www.ferris.edu/HTMLS/news/jimcrow/question/apr06/index.htm
 “Nicodemus National Historic Site,” from https://www.nps.gov/nico/learn/historyculture/upload/Timeline.pdf
 “About Western cyclone. (Nicodemus, Kan.) 1886-1887” from http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84030031/
Written by Samantha de Vera, University of Delaware.